Salut! Alors, I’m officially on Christmas break now, so I think it’s time for me to finish writing about fall break, right? Here we go!
When we last left our adventurers, they had just collapsed into bed after a long day of seeing monuments older than the USA and a ridiculously emotional viewing of Hamlet.
So the next morning I took a shower at the hostel (an experience I won’t comment on) and then after breakfast we walked down to Trafalgar Square.
After our fill of tourist pictures in the Square, we bought tickets for a hop on-hop off bus tour and took off around the city.
While we were on the bus, there was a young couple in front of us. At one point, the guy turned around and asked where we were from, and we told him we were from the US. Then he said, “Wow, your English is really good.” We were like ………….. Thank you? It is our native language, so I’d hope so??
So when we got to Buckingham Palace, the gates were blocked off. We thought it was weird, but didn’t really question anything until a whole crowd of East Asian-looking people came, complete with Chinese flags and big tupperware buckets of some kind of delicious-looking dumpling thing. After a guy came up and asked us if we were joining the group, we found out that there was a state visit that day from the Chinese president to the Queen!
Before that, though, we were able to get some pictures in front of the palace!
We also got our typical tourist photos with a phone booth!
That evening, we went to a play called Billy Elliot. It was amazing! And it was so British that there were times I honestly couldn’t understand what they were saying haha. The boy who played Billy was phenomenally talented, and even though we were in the nosebleed seats (literally the last row – and it was so steep we could have easily fallen to our deaths), we had a great time!
Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Then we took the Tube back to our hostel because we were just too exhausted to walk, and it was late and pretty far away anyway. Because of the position of the Tube stop, we did get to see the Thames at night, and the Millennium Bridge!
When we got back to our hostel, we were in a common area trying to plan out our next day, when a guy came up and said that he’d noticed our accents and wanted to ask us about the US. So we talked to him for a good long time about places to travel and things to see in the US (without giving out any personal information, don’t freak out, Mom) and it was really cool to meet someone else who loves to travel and talk about it! It was also really cool to share some love for our country, which, despite its many many flaws, is beautiful.
The next day, Wednesday, was our last. I had porridge for breakfast-
which was good, and not at all what I was expecting. Then we hopped on the bus and saw some of the sights we’d missed the day before!
We walked around Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus and went inside a huuuuge M&M World store there.
We also went to Chinatown!
We then had dinner at Wagamama, and I had some curry. Sooooo good.
So after dinner we ran back to our hostel to pick up our stuff, then headed out to catch our overnight megabus back to Paris. The bus was nicer this time, and we had more leg room. We went through border control and rode the ferry a little earlier this time, which I appreciated, even though I didn’t sleep much.
We got off the bus at 6:15am to a cold, wet, sleeping Paris. Even the McDonald’s wasn’t open yet.
We decided to go to the Louvre because it’s in the middle of the three different train stations we had to be at in a few hours. Yes, three different ones. France’s transportation system is centralized in Paris, so pretty much all trains ever pass through there – meaning they have to have like five or six different stations to accommodate all of them. Each station serves a specific region, so we all come in and out of different ones.
Anyway, we made it to the Louvre (the métro was running, thankfully), and I promptly led us astray. After a long trek and lots of gracious silence on Breanna and Joan’s part, we made it back to the Louvre. By this time a Starbucks was open… Thank the Lord. When we sat down, I was literally falling asleep at the table.
After a while at the Starbucks, we snapped some early morning light pictures of the Louvre, then went our separate ways on the métro to our train stations.
Though we just wanted to get home at that point, unfortunately Paris had other plans, and Joan’s wallet was lifted right out of her bag at her train station. Luckily, her passport wasn’t inside of it, but all of her money was. She called me from the train station police’s phone (she didn’t have a French phone yet), and I switched my ticket to a later train and went to help her. She got her cards shut down without incident – someone had tried to make a withdrawal, but they didn’t have her PIN – and I got her a train ticket home for later that day. We ended up getting some food in a McDonald’s by her station, and she was kind enough to let me nap. Yes, I was so tired that I slept face-down on a table at a busy McDonald’s in the middle of the afternoon for an hour and a half. Without waking up once! Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Eventually, we both made it to our trains and on the way home. However, since I’d switched my ticket to a later train, and that train ended up being a little late, I just missed the last bus from Bernay to Pont-Audemer. Thankfully the wonderful Delphine drove the half-hour to come and pick me up. She even brought me some bread for the next day, since all the grocery stores were already closed! Her husband Laurent came with her, and he doesn’t speak much English. He also owns a really neat antique and used bookstore in town, so we ended up talking in French about literature the whole way home. Baptism by fire back into France! That Thursday was definitely an eventful way to end our trip, and I slept for pretty much the next three days.
So that was our London trip! In my mind I knew London would be different from Paris, of course, but I think my subconscious had constructed a picture of the city that was just an English-speaking Paris. However, the feel of London was completely different from Paris. I loved it, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Even though the pound is an absolute killer.
Another interesting thing I noticed was that even though people in England (obviously) speak English, it still felt like coming home when we got back into France. I was a bit relieved, to be honest – even speaking French with Laurent when I was so tired I was about to fall over. Coming back to Paris, then my little flat in Pont-Audemer, really does feel like coming home. I think that people can have more than one, so while of course I still think of the United States as home, it’s nice to notice that I’ve managed to make a home here as well.
The second week of vacation – because I still had an entire week to go! – was much less eventful than the first. I went to the coastal town of Le Havre with Nicolas and his family one evening, after recovering for a few days.
It was a nice evening walking around the city and seeing the sights. Le Havre was heavily bombed in WWII, so a lot of the buildings are more modern. It felt more like an American city to me than any other city I’ve been in here in France.
I also got the chance to go to the cliffs of Étretat for the afternoon with Delphine. These cliffs are famous and beautiful – Monet and many other artists have painted them.
After having a mini heart attack from climbing the hundreds of stairs up the cliffs, we were rewarded with an incredible view of the grey-blue sea. It was so calm, and we could see for miles out.
It was an amazing view. Delphine and I then had crêpes and hot chocolate at a café by the shore, and it was absolutely lovely. One of my favorite places I’ve traveled so far!
So that was my eventful, incredible fall break. I’m so so thankful to be getting the opportunities to do what I’m doing here. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about school and my daily life, and also post some pictures of the actual town where I live. I realized I haven’t done that yet!
I hope you’re all doing well. I would love to exchange Christmas cards, so if you’d like to, just message me your address and I’ll message you mine. Thanks for reading, as always, and happy break!
À bientôt xx